The Weiner Component #27 – Subsidies & Taxes: Is There a Difference?

End crop subsidies

In order for any government to function it must have some source of revenue that allows it to pay its expenses.  In addition, for a nation to grow, both during periods of peace and war, it must have a means of encouraging the development of new or fledgling industries.  A major method of doing this is through subsidies, which reduce taxes in specific areas of economic growth.  These are tax subsidies that are supposed to be used only when they are needed.  Once the fledgling industry can compete on a world-trading basis or can supply the needs of its-own country these subsidies are no longer needed and should be done away with.  Unfortunately that is not always the case.

During the early days of the United States the source of government income was mostly tariffs, a small tax on all goods being imported.  As the country grew so did its need for money to fund its operation and other things within the nation were taxed.  Eventually, with wars, beginning with the Civil War, individual gross income was taxed.  The Supreme Court eventually declared this income tax unconstitutional.  Early in 20th Century the Constitution was amended, Article XVI, legalizing the income tax.  It has existed ever since as one the main sources of revenue for the Federal Government and also for most of the state governments.

This tax, from its beginning was supposed to be a graduated tax; the amount people paid was to be based upon their ability to pay, the more one earned the greater the percent the individual paid.  Thus the amounts paid were based upon the individual or household’s ability to pay.

During the later part of the 20th Century taxable income, the income tax, was divided into two major categories, regular income and capital gain or active and passive income.  Active income was money directly earned by some form of employment; passive income was an increase in value of something, stock, property, art or anything increasing in value over a passage of time.  The object of this was to encourage the sale of the property or stock or whatever the item was, since it could only be taxed when it was exchanged for money.

Also with capital gain the increase in value had to be significant if it were to be sold, otherwise the profit would be eaten up by the amount of the tax.  Consequently capital gain was considered a reasonable extension of the income tax laws.  However over the years many accountants have been able to extend it to cover a goodly percentage of the upper echelon’s income and subsequently have considerably reduced the percentage of their earnings paid in taxes.  Someone like Mitt Romney pays fourteen percent or less of his million plus income while the ordinary citizen earning far less than one hundred thousand dollars a year will pay twenty to twenty-five percent of their income in these taxes.  There is now a move to reduce the capital gains tax and/or increase the tax base of anyone earning a million dollars or more a year.

On the other hand the Federal Government is and has been giving subsidies to many people and companies investing in green forms of power, saving or producing devices like those that make electricity or hot water from light.  These devices are usually installed on the roofs of homes or they can be money invested in electricity producing windmills that generate electricity or similar resource creating devices.  The individual’s benefit derived from this type of investment is not to decrease his overall taxable income by the amount spent on the device but a direct deduction from the money owed to the government.  If you owe fifteen thousand dollars in income taxes that year and the power-saving device cost ten thousand dollars to buy and install, then the tax owed is reduced to five thousand dollars.  If the cost of the device is greater than your taxes then you can carry the difference over to the next year.  It is a means of economically encouraging households “to go green” and inexpensively increase the amount of available resources for the country

In the case of businesses or corporations this encouragement is carried out by “subsidies.”  Subsidies according to Webster’s dictionary are “grants of money by a government to a private person or company to assist an enterprise advantageous to the public.”    Usually these grants are supposed to function as long as it is advantageous for the country to fund that entity.  This usually means allowing a fledgling company to grow large enough to become competitive with similar concerns from other nations or to allow forms of exploration that the concern cannot itself afford, such as drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico.  The oil subsidies, for example, were begun in the early 1940’s to allow for rapid exploration during World War II.  With some modifications and additions they are still going on today.  If the government were to stop or limit these subsidies in no way is it taxing these companies which today are making profits in the billions of dollars.

For practical reasons over the years many corporations were given innumerable subsidies, generally for very good reasons.  These subsidies are, in most cases, no longer practical, as currently most of these corporations are multi-profitable.  In point of fact many, like the oil interests, tend to use some of their subsidy money to hire lobbyists and for contributions to both political parties.  While this is not legally bribery, it comes awfully close to being both coercion and bribery.

The current argument in Washington between the Democratic and Republican Parties defines these subsidies as being taxes.  If they were cancelled, John Boehner has argued, it would be raising taxes on “the job creators.”

As we’ve seen the large corporations that get these subsidies use the money mainly to fund lobbyists and to make financial contributions to both parties in both Houses of Congress.  What they are mining is the American taxpayer who indirectly ends up paying their bills.  Isn’t it time we stopped subsidizing companies that are making many billions of dollars in profits.  Subsidies are not taxes and should not be treated as such.  Let’s have a more reasonable system of taxation!


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